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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about the harsh realities of the American dream, 10 Oct. 1997
By A Customer
While Bo Mason continually believes that the pot of gold is round over the next hill, his wife and children are bearing the brunt of his inability to settle down and make himself respectable.
Once again, Wallace Stegener has unveiled a mosaic of complex human relationships which keeps the reader hooked until the last word. He continues to prove himself with every book of his I read. I just can't decide whether to admire Elsa for sticking by her husband through it all or wish she had left him to march to the beat of her own drum.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The powerful lure and tragedy of the American Dream, 10 Oct. 1997
By A Customer
Wallace Stegner is different than most famous American writers, eschewing colorful literary activities like drug use, wife-swapping, and gross public displays of antisocial behavior. After a most difficult childhood, which is essentially chronicled in The Big Rock Candy Mountain, he married and stayed married, and received appointments to the faculties of prestigious universities.
Yet Stegner's childhood, on the harsh plains of Saskatchewan, in the timber camps of the Northwest, and as the son of a bootlegger, marked Stegner as the survivor of a headlong and foolhardy quest after the American dream. That dream, and the belief that it could easily be found in the Plains and mountains of the North American West is abstracted in the mind of Bo Mason, the literary doppelganger for Stegner's father, as the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Much of Stegner's work focused on the choices we make in life, and the effect those choices have on our loved ones. In many ways, his urge towards moderation in personal affairs mirrored his burgeoning interest in conservation, and both were born of his childhood, where he saw precious commodities like love and timber misused and wasted.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain captures the drive, much lost in recent years, towards the frontiers of our existence. The frontier myth--and after reading Stegner's work you'll realize it is to a certain extent a myth--is perhaps the single defining attribute of what it means to be American. Stegner realizes this, and he realizes what can happen to our reality when the quest for a dream is taken too far.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Painful but totally absorbing., 7 Mar. 2014
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Bluecashmere. (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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To say that this book is long and weighty in more senses than one is meant as no criticism. Rather, I’m trying to communicate a little of how successfully Stegner draws us in to the Masons’ itinerant worlds, how we seem to live every moment of their lives, almost at the pace of the family themselves. The author's personal experience enriches the novel most particularly via our sense of the actuality of place.

Even more than Bo, Elsa stands at the centre of the book: stoic, loyal, possessed of strength and love in equal proportions. As increasingly the narrative shifts to seeing events through the acute, sensitive eyes of Bruce, Elsa grows even further in stature, but Bruce’s anger at his father, while always there, is increasingly shot through with moments of imaginative empathy.

In many ways the book is a monument to endurance and the persistence of hope. It is a relentless tale of pursuit of rainbows but also a solid tribute to the human spirit. It seems to me to be a major achievement and offers the most powerful experience to the reader.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great books of the American West, 2 May 1997
By A Customer
Though this book was written in the 30s, it is timeless. The dilemma Else faces with her husband's constant search for the scheme that will make him rich and his subsequent illegal methods of earning a liviing could be faced by any American woman today.

Big Rock Candy Mountain is a must read for any Westerner, or better yet, any American.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Thrilling Story of the Pride of an American Family, 3 Aug. 1997
By A Customer
This book alternately makes you root for the hero, Bo Mason, and against him as he struggles for the American Dream. The Masons' difficulties as they all struggled for their pride and for their family made this book difficult to put down.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best!, 28 April 1999
By A Customer
Stegner was at his best in this novel. At various times, you love and hate all the characters. It's more than a book about choices; it's about people at their best and their worst. Recapitulation is the followup to this novel. Anyone who liked The Big Rock Candy Mountain must read Recapitulation!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story of a family's struggles, 16 May 1999
By A Customer
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and raced out to buy another by Stegman. The book gave a very vivid account of what life in the early 20th century must have been like.
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The Big Rock Candy Mountain (Penguin Classics)
The Big Rock Candy Mountain (Penguin Classics) by Wallace Earle Stegner (Paperback - 27 July 2010)
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